SBJ/October 24 - 30, 2005/Facilities

Hold the phone: NBA requires wireless access

The NBA is requiring all 30 of its teams to provide in-arena wireless access, becoming the first of the major leagues to mandate the technology.

The league is pushing for teams to phase in the wireless technology this season, with the requirement that it be in place by the start of the 2006-07 season. The wireless access will be available to the media, eliminating much of the demand for phone lines in media workrooms and courtside areas.

“We wanted to take the lead in getting our arenas with wireless connections,” said NBA spokesman Brian McIntyre.

While the wireless access will initially be provided only to the media, it is likely that long-term plans will broaden the service to allow fans to access it using personal digital assistants. Some teams also are including a wireless gate entry to better serve fans and monitor fan access.

“The major advantage is that it eliminates the need to do lots of physical labor to cable and wire the building, especially for the media,” said Steve Schanwald, executive vice president of business operations for the Chicago Bulls.

“The wireless gate entry can be a benefit to both us and the fan. For example, we can take orders from fans for concessions and place those orders wirelessly.”

About 20 NBA teams now have the wireless access in place. Teams must pay for the access, but are not charging media outlets.

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